Sunday, January 15, 2012

On the Air: On Your Way Down

Little Feat: On Your Way Down

[purchase studio version]

Musicians and bands often do interviews on the radio, and these usually include in studio performances of songs from their current album. These performances have an immediacy to them that can compensate for the lack of polish that can come from hours spent polishing in a recording studio. Radio stations often lack the ability to host all of the technology that was used in the recording, so the musicians must show their versatility. As a result, a side of their music comes out that wasn’t on the album. This week, we will be presenting the music that can result from this. Television stations often have better facilities, but even so, the artists can still show an aspect of their art that we, the listeners, don’t usually get to hear. There are times when that is the whole point of a particular television program. And we will be presenting that as well.

To begin, here is a performance by Little Feat of On Your Way Down, from a visit to radio station WLIR in 1974. This is Little Feat in its classic configuration, and at the height of its powers. In the studio, the band worked with extra musicians, particularly female background singers. Here, they have to cover that themselves. The equipment that was available at the radio station did not allow the band to duplicate the mix they used in the studio either. Here, the piano and organ parts are much more prominent in the mix than before, and they sound great. There were, of course no overdubs, so Bill Payne switches from piano to organ halfway through the song, and it works. In 1974, bands did not try to duplicate the sound of their albums when they played in any live setting. Lowell George changes the phrasing in his vocal line here. What this performance shows is just how emotionally invested in their music Little Feat were.

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